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Texas execution delayed due to questions of mental competency

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To be convicted of certain criminal charges in Texas, the state must prove that the accused possessed the requisite mental intent to commit the crime. Thus, if an individual is mentally incompetent at the time of the crime, he or she may not have intended to do the act. It is for this reason that a mental insanity defense is permissible in Texas. In fact, in 2002, Texas' highest court ruled that a mentally incompetent person cannot be executed at all. These laws, which protect a mentally incompetent accused, were recently put into action in the state.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals recently delayed the execution of a 49-year-old man. The man was charged and convicted of a 1989 murder of a restaurant manager during a burglary. The accused man was convicted of the crime and set for execution via lethal injection last week. His lawyer however appealed the death sentence due to issues of mental capacity.

The court of appeals stayed the execution, indicating there was reason to believe that the man was incorrectly put on medication to make him competent for execution.

The man has an IQ of 70, which is the threshold of mental impairment in Texas. Before imprisonment, he stayed in a series of halfway houses. His lawyers concluded his mental status had deteriorated further while in prison.

It is not clear at this point what the next steps might be as the court only delayed the execution. Higher courts have held it is proper to forcibly medicate an accused if it is in the accused's best health interest. However, the U.S. Supreme Court has not ruled on the matter.

Texas defense laws are invaluable and even lifesaving, as is potentially the case for the 49-year-old man. An experienced advocate can raise appropriate defenses in a timely and effective manner.

Source: Star Telegram, "Texas inmate set to die Wednesday gets reprieve," Michael Gracyzk, May 14, 2012

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